The Gustavian Weekly

“Laying Low” before the holidays - The Gustavian Weekly

By Emily Seppelt - Opinion Columnist | November 13, 2020 | Opinion

As Thanksgiving break quickly approaches, all Gusties are now in a “lay-low period.”
“Students (on- and off-campus) and employees should stop in-person social activities and move group work and meetings to a virtual format,” the email from President Bergman to the student body said.
Citing the fact that there has been little evidence of any transmission of COVID from in-person classes, however, in-person classes are still running as normal.
I find this decision to be…interesting, to say the least. To me, it does not make very much sense to limit our social contacts if we don’t also limit our time spent in class with our peers. The definition of a close contact is anyone we spend more than 15 minutes with, even if we are wearing a mask. Considering that there are not currently any classes at Gustavus that last less than 15 minutes, it would seem to me that every person that I attend class with would be my close contact.
In the last week, COVID cases on campus and off have been increasing quickly. At Gustavus, at the time of writing this article, there are 65 total positive student cases and one positive case among the employees. We cannot forget the number of people that are quarantined either‒currently, there are 54 students on campus in quarantine and eight employees. This is also not taking into consideration the fact that many students who are deemed close contacts may have chosen to quarantine at home.
Outside of the Gustavus bubble, it seems that we are again entering a period of possible state-wide lockdown and hospitals full of COVID-19 patients.

“The next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said.

This urgency and danger of COVID-19, especially now, makes it so important that we make the right choices now and in the next two months when we are home.
Honestly, I am amazed that we made it this far on campus without a larger outbreak like the one we are currently experiencing. In just one week to the next, we went from just 11 active positive student cases to 61 active positive student cases. Unfortunately, I blame Halloween weekend for this spike in cases. While the vast majority of Gusties were probably safe, the thought of celebrating the holiday in unsafe ways was just too tempting. Instead of dwelling on our mistakes, we should take steps to help do whatever we can to correct them and to be as safe as possible going into the holiday season.
In my opinion, I think it would have been safer for Gustavus to institute the online period earlier to keep everyone safe, rather than simply limiting on-campus events only. While I commend the argument that it keeps everyone safe before Thanksgiving, still holding in-person classes seems to defeat the purpose of the lay-low period. It would be smarter to institute a two-week quarantine period in our dorms (outside of necessities like the Caf) before heading home for Thanksgiving break to help protect our families.
While I understand that it is disappointing to go to online classes sooner than we may have expected, that disappointment and possible disruption to class is nothing in comparison to the chance that students could be bringing back the virus from class to their roommates and eventually to their families when they leave.
Ultimately, if in-person classes are still happening, students need to at least take the responsibility of limiting their outings to class and food only when possible. Considering that we are now nearing the end of the semester, with workloads that tower above our heads, this should not be too difficult.
At this point, I know that everyone is sick of hearing these warnings and taking these precautions, and I know I am personally disappointed that COVID has reached all the way to the Christmas season. But keeping up best practices and being as safe as we can allows for people to still have their family around for the holiday season instead of in the hospital, and maybe helps healthcare workers to have some time with their family. Keep it up, Gusties.

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